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Calzaghe hits back at the critics

Joe Calzahe and Roy Jones

By Peter Shuttleworth

It's not on Madison. It's not square. And there's no garden.

And while we're at it, Joe Calzaghe's prize-fighting farewell against Roy Jones Jr in New York City's iconic venue is not a world title fight either.

Calzaghe's super-fight swansong has been dismissed by few as nothing more than a celebrity death-match.

They say it's two ageing greats fighting to inflate their pension fund rather than their reputation.

Antonio Tarver, the now dethroned undisputed light-heavyweight champion, unleashed a low blow on the tussle of the old-timers for The Ring Magazine light-heavyweight belt on Saturday.

Joe Calzaghe
Joe Calzaghe ready for his final bout

He said: "You have a lot of old fighters fighting old fighters. Calzaghe and Roy Jones are doing celebrity boxing. What the hell will Calzaghe do if he knocks out Roy?"

Please his bank manager for a start.

There are 17m reasons why Joe wants to say farewell to the fight game against a big box office superstar such as Jones.

And Calzaghe himself points out: "There are so many alphabet world titles and supposed world champions these days, you tell me who the real champions are?

"I've never heard of half of the excuses for world champions.

"A lot of the younger champions aren't fit to be named in the same sentence as Roy Jones and they're nowhere near as dangerous.

"Here we have two future hall of fame fighters, who will go down in history and still be remembered in 25 years. And we can still fight."

Tarver is old enough to know boxing is the most showbiz of sports with an VIP guest list dripping with Hollywood A-listers and sporting glitterati.

"I was struggling to fill the Cardiff Ice Rink, fighting mandatory guys who I couldn't pronounce their name let alone know who they were."

Joe Calzaghe

And a quick glance through boxing's chronicles will prove, often two great pugilists do not collide when either is in their prime.

Calzaghe, unbeaten in 45 professional fights over 15 years, has little left to prove in a sparkling career but much money to make.

"I'm co-promoting this fight with Roy," said Calzaghe. "And the money will be my set me and my family up for life."

And who can deny this unique centurion a golden goodbye fit for a king of the ring?

For too long Calzaghe, the 11-year ruler of the super-middleweight division, fought mandatory nobodies in sparsely-populated halls as the big boys ran and hid.

Only in the wake of Calzaghe's systematic points demolition in 2006 of the man once dubbed "the next Mike Tyson did the world wake up to Wales' best-kept sporting secret.

Joe Calzaghe
Joe Calzaghe celebrates victory over Mikkel Kessler

Mikkel Kessler, Calzaghe's only real super-middleweight rival, tried and failed as the Welshman collected all of the 168lb world title belts in a memorable early morning in Cardiff.

Calzaghe's patience was eventually rewarded.

"Both Lacy and Kessler were hailed as the real deal before they fought me," Calzaghe told BBC Sport.

"But I beat them convincingly, no excuses. And after beating the so-called new kids on the block, you can't hold it against me to be fighting guys of my own age!

"So apart from Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr, there is no-one else left."

The 36-year-old is concluding the ultimate rags to riches career against '"he Executioner" Hopkins and then four-weight world champion Jones, two bonafide living legends who could no longer run from the Welshman.

"I thought America and the big-money fights had passed me by four or five years ago," admits Calzaghe.

"I was struggling to fill the Cardiff Ice Rink, fighting mandatory guys who I couldn't pronounce their name let alone know who they were.

"But everything happened for me after I smashed up Lacy.

606: DEBATE

"I've fought twice at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, once in Vegas against a legend like Hopkins and now I'm finishing it all at Madison Square Gardens against Roy Jones Jr, who'll go down as one of the greats.

"Fighting a legend, in a legendary arena is a a fitting finale for me."

His sporting immortality is secured.

But should the warrior from south Wales beat Jones in his 46th professional fight, Calzaghe would achieve a feat that even Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis failed to accomplish.

An untarnished legacy would prove this is an extraordinary Joe.

see also
Calzaghe ready to cement legacy
05 Nov 08 |  Boxing
Doubts over Calzaghe retirement
29 Oct 08 |  Boxing
Calzaghe ready for Warren claim
26 Jul 08 |  Boxing


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